November 8, 2011

Ironico: No water / no agua

---  Nov. 8, 2011
The irony is profound.

I am working for Isla Urbana, a foundation which installs rainwater harvesting systems, encourages water conservation, and teaches how to best manage the water resources in Mexico City.  Please do know I'm having a fantastic time and love the team here.

The headquarters, where seven people live, is currently out of water.  The cistern of 10,000 liters is almost dry.  It serves us as well as inhabitants of five other apartments in our complex.  I arrived three days ago, certainly needing to wash laundry after two weeks of travel in Mexico, and needing to take a shower.  I still have no clean underwear, and my hair is... gross.

We have water to wash dishes and wash our hands, and flush the toilet when necessary.  Showering is strongly discouraged - there simply is not enough water to stretch until godknowswhen we receive city water or rain water again.

But how could this happen?  How could we run out of water?
Simple.  The cistern fills in one of three ways:
First, we try to capture the rainwater, and use it in the cistern.  But the last true rain was October 16. 
Second, the city pushes water through our neighborhood's pipes every few days or weeks or whenever they feel like giving us water.  And because we'd closed the pipe to our cistern to anticipate filling it with rainwater, and no rain came, our cistern is dry.
Third, we could buy a giant tank of water, but it's quite expensive, and it makes more sense to wait for city or rainwater.

But it's not just us - no neighbors have water.  The laundromat has no water.  Our cook has no water.  No one has water.  My friends are driving across town to other friends' houses to wash laundry.  I dare not smell my friends.

As I write this, I hear the quiet rush of water through the pipes and dripping into the cistern.  The city sent water our direction, albeit only a small amount. 

Perhaps tomorrow I can shower.
I only hope the laundromat remembers just how desperate I am for clean underwear.

Wednesday morning we woke up to a small amount of water in the cistern.  I had a super short "sailor's shower" from water pouring out of a pipe in the cement wall.  And oooo boy did it feel good after 6 days of no showers!
As I write, Carmen is washing my laundry just outside my bedroom window.  She can't wash them at her house because she still has no water.  The irony is that she only lives one block above us on our hill, and because the water first fills the cisterns at the bottom of the hill and then automatically proceeds to fill cisterns going up the hill, she has no water.  Only one block up the hill.

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